Bioplastics industry not fearing downturn packaging hit

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bioplastic, Polylactic acid

As food and drink manufacturers continue to find new uses for bioplastics in their packaging, processor attitudes to innovation remain just as important as cost efficiency in regards to challenges facing the sector, says one industry group.

A spokesperson for the trade group, European Bioplastics, told FoodProductionDaily.com that although cost concerns are a major challenge to future industry development, they might also potentially serve as a major driver for manufacturer interest in the segment

The claims come as chemical producer Purac announces that it has won an innovation award for its role in a collaboration to provide more cost effective methods of producing materials like polylactic acid (PLA) bio-foams.

Drastic impacts

However, as the food industry comes under pressure to ensure both cost efficient production and sustainable manufacturing, European Bioplastics claims the economic downturn is not drastically affecting demand for packaging sourced from renewable materials.

“Both the development of cost efficient materials and the industry’s experience and willingness to look at alternative packs are important challenges [for bioplastics],”​ states the trade group.

A spokesperson for European Bioplastics claims that financial concerns currently hitting most businesses were just as likely to encourage food manufacturers to adopt bio-packaging as they are to hinder interest in the materials, depending on individual circumstances.

In the current food and beverage market, the trade groups suggests there are already a wide number of viable bioplastic uses for packaging, particularly concentrated in Western European countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

A European Bioplastics spokesperson claims although food manufacturers are one of the most predominant users of bioplastic materials in packaging, the materials are increasingly being considered by drinks groups as well.

The trade group says that with the exception of sparkling beverages, many potential uses for bioplastics can be found in drink packs.

Innovation awards

Amidst the challenges facing the development of bioplastic packaging, Purac claims that an award winning collaboration in PLA production will put the company in a strong position to work with packaging groups in developing renewable material solutions.

Through cooperation with the developers Sulzer Chemtech and Synbra Technology, the company says it has received the 2008 Frost & Sullivan European Polylactic Production Technology Innovation of the Year Award for its efforts to push greater cost efficiency in the bioplastics segment.

“This unique offering will significantly reduce the process and product development time enabling faster and more reliable market entry for PLA producers,”​ claims Aravind Chander, a research analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

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